The council president of Dhidhoo island in northern Haa Alif atoll has been suspended in connection with a pending investigation related to newly built housing units on the island.
Ali Hashim’s indefinite suspension came on Thursday with the Local Government Authority alleging the councillor, from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, tried to prepare a list of housing unit winners and disregarded a previous list sent by the housing ministry.
The letter signed by LGA CEO, Mohamed Shafeeq, ordered Dhidhoo council’s vice president Mohamed Hashim to take over the duties of the suspended council president until the conclusion of an official investigation.
The LGA and other authorities have also received complaints connected to Hashim, who was allegedly making derogatory statements to discredit state institutions and create public discord while in a respectable elected position, the letter read.
It also said Hashim could not take part in any official work of the five-member MDP-dominated council and that he would remain without pay and allowances for the length of the suspension.
A team from the LGA visited Dhidhoo island over the weekend to question the suspended council president.
“LGA officials came here [Dhidhoo island] and questioned me yesterday [Saturday]. The bottom line is they are punishing me for my transparency, for acting in accordance with the housing ministry’s guideline,” Hashim told the Maldives Independent by phone.
A total of 140 housing units were built in Dhidhoo, which has a population of more than 4500. The 52-hectare island was reclaimed in 2010 to add 33 more hectares to cater for the growing population in the capital of Haa Alif atoll.
According to the island council, 440 applications were submitted two years ago for the housing units. Some 125 of Dhidhoo residents were selected in category A and 15 from other islands were selected for category B.
“We received a letter from the housing ministry on December 21 last year . They wanted us to select the housing unit winners and announce the list with details, including the names. A new letter was again sent in May this year,” Hashim said.
The island council formed a technical committee to evaluate the applications based on a standard “objective” criterion provided by the ministry and announced the list after the newly elected councillors took the oath of office in June, he stated.
“But on July 2, we got a letter from the ministry asking us to nullify the list. So we did that and sent the applications to the ministry by August 30, as they requested”.
On September 14, the island council received numerous complaints after the ministry announced a new list with only the application form numbers of the housing unit winners.
“So we compared both lists and found several inconsistencies in the ministry’s list. Then we sent letters to the applicants informing them of the marks they scored and whether they won the housing unit as per the ministry’s list,” Hashim said.
“That’s when they accused me of attempting to make a new list”.
Highlighting the inconsistencies in the ministry’s list, the council also lodged a case with the Anti-Corruption Commission over the lack of transparency and unfairness in awarding the row houses.
A spokesman from the housing ministry was not available for comment when contacted by the Maldives Independent. But speaking at a press conference on September 18, housing minister Dr Mohamed Muiz accused Dhidhoo council of not cooperating with the ministry.
The MDP, meanwhile, issued a statement on Saturday calling on the LGA to lift the “unfair and unlawful suspension” of the Dhidhoo council president.
Hashim, meanwhile, told the Maldives Independent: “I will be surprised if I ever do get justice. You know how the members of LGA were earlier elected and then changed into presidential appointees just to scare off the councillors.”
An amendment to the Decentralisation Act in April gave full control of the LGA board to President Abdulla Yameen. All members on the LGA board are now appointed by the president with the consent of the ruling coalition-controlled parliament.